A great nation is like a great man: When he makes a mistake,
he realizes it. Having realized it, he admits it. Having
admitted it, he corrects it. He considers those who point
out his faults as his most benevolent teachers. He thinks of
his enemy as the shadow that he himself casts. -- Lao Tzu
Many of the people who shared the horror of the years in Vietnam
prisons came home unchanged. Some are angry with me, some just
befuddled, that I could have changed my mind about war. Others
who were also tortured to within an inch of their lives vocally
supported the Bush administration policies of torturing
captives. I took a different path. We are the benefactors of the
greatest legal document in history - the U.S. Constitution. It
has been trampled. Many of our citizens are confused. But my
position was, and unalterably is that those policies were simply
illegal, immoral and inhumane.
I'm not a pacifist. There were times in the past when war made
sense because there weren't other options. Thoughtful people
today understand the need to protect themselves, but fewer think
that war makes sense any more. Sadly, our country has
consistently used militarism and war as an instrument of foreign
and economic policy. The United States has conducted over 100
military or quasi-military interventions into the affairs
of other countries since the end of WW II. We spend more on arms
and armament every year than all the other countries in the
The idea of war, after all, is for strangers to kill strangers
in such numbers that one side finds the carnage too horrible to
continue. And over the course of the past century it hasn't been
the combatants, but civilians who have become the primary
victims. During World War One -- "The War to End All Wars" --
half of the casualties were actual combatants. Today, in a world
where some thirty wars are currently being fought, 90% of the
casualties are non-combatants, most of them women and children.
It has been more than 36 years since I returned from Vietnam.
Much of what has happened to me during these nearly four decades
I discuss in the ďAfter the WarĒ section. Today, having put the
war years further behind me, I'm in a different place. Giving
back to my community has become a big part of my life now. That
includes being active with peace and justice, environmental and
quality of life non-profit and community organizations. Besides
my wife Barbara, our family and friends, I also enjoy golf,
playing my piano, and doing some mentoring and public speaking.
Iím also writing a book now. Having put this task off for years,
I feel that I've reached an age where I've gained a better
perspective and am making a greater effort to keep an open mind.
The other reason for writing the book Ė getting it all out Ė is
that in my life there have been some extraordinary experiences,
the recounting of which may provide clarity for others. Not that
anyone needs to be held captive in a rat-infested prison and to
be tortured by hostile and inhumane people. But yes, there were
lessons there, in perseverance, team work, friendship,
self-exploration, and keeping our sense of humor and optimism.
In this section I will recount some of the great pleasures Iíve
found in family, friends, music, golf, with animals and nature,
with giving back. This isnít about promoting a lifestyle, but my
overall intention is to put some light on activities that have
benefitted me; activities that might offer a respite, or a new
direction, for others. Again, if I need to say it, Iím not
selling anything; just stirring the pot with one manís story.
Above all, it is with humility that I record these events of my
life because you should know that I consider myself to be one of
the luckiest men on the face of this beautiful earth.